Who covers the clockspring repair?

I took our '99 Mazda Protege in for a clutch replacement. The mileage is over 150k. The car was returned with the air bag light blinking and the cruise control and horn deactivated. All were fine beforehand. The shop eventually admitted that they could have broken the clockspring during the repair. They are going to get back to me tomorrow with a quote for the repair and they told me they are going to “work with me” on the cost. I don’t understand why I should pay for anything associated with the clock spring repair. Another mechanic told me they had to secure the steering during the clutch replacement and probably forgot to do it, furthermore they should cover 100% of the repair. Looking for comments.



I can’t think of a reason the steering would be involved with the clutch. Maybe they had to turn the steering wheel to the limits to arrange for needed space to get the transmission in and out. hmmm … still, I can’t see how that would affect the clock-spring mechanism. Unless it was about break anyway.

The “clock-spring” is an assembly of specialty wires and connectors that allow enough mechanical flexibility that electrical signals can go between various devices in the car to and from the moving steering wheel. The wiring it contains carries signals for the air bag and the various user controls attached to the steering wheel, like to set the cruise control, or beep the horn.

I think what the shop is saying is that “yes, as part of the clutch job we did – by necessity – turn the steering wheel all the way to the stops. But that wouldn’t break a good clock spring. It would only break one that was about to break anyway.”

Which does make a certain amount of sense if you think about it. New clock springs wouldn’t break just by turning the steering wheel to the stops. But an old, well-worn clock spring could, as the wires, insulation, and connectors all get brittle with time and use.

In my opinion the shop shouldn’t have to pay the entire amount to fix it. But how much should they pay? That’s a tough one. I think if you can get them to pay 50%, you’re getting a pretty fair deal for yourself. After all, you’ll have a new clock spring that won’t break for ages. If they pay 25%, they’re getting a pretty fair deal for the shop. So something in between them paying 25% and the shop paying 50% seems fair to me.

I am not a mechanic but the shop told me they had to drop the steering to get to something to complete the clutch job and it may have broken at this point. My regular mechanic who has worked on this car many times said they always secure the steering before a job like this. He knew immediately what caused it and told me I should not be responsible for any of it. He was too far away from the car when the clutch gave out though I am now more likely to pay extra for the tow in the future. Thanks George!

Maybe it’s necessary to reposition the steering rack to remove the transmission. That seems unusual in an econobox – a Protégé is sort of a Mazda econobox design, similar to a Corolla, right? – but it is certainly possible. If so, that might prevent the steering “stop” mechanism from preventing the clock spring from getting over-stressed. In that case you’d have more of an argument in your favor that the shop should pay for the entire repair.

I have no experience with the under-hood arrangement of this particular car. Hopefully one of the experts here who has worked on a Protege will chime in.

This sounds like a 50/50 deal to me on the cost of the repair.

I’ll cut through directly to “shoot from the hip assumptions.” The mechanic seems to have been clumsy or careless and damaged/destroyed the wiring harness from the steering wheel which includes the clockspring, cruise control, etc. The shop should make the owner “whole” again. On a 16 year old Mazda replacing that harness won’t be easy and patching it shouldn’t be an option.

This sounds like a 50/50 deal to me on the cost of the repair.

If that happened at this shop it would be a 50/50 deal. The shop would provide the part and the mechanic who worked on the car would provide the labor.

I think that the owner should pay half of the cost because the vehicle is so old. If it was a newer vehicle then the shop should pay 100%. If you can get the shop to pay 100% then more power to you but in all fairness…you should pay half.

I say the shop 100% it came in working left broken. Why should the owner pat for something that someone else broke? If proper repair procedures are followed the spring will not be damaged. Accidents happen most reputable shops will eat the loss and move on.

I say the shop [pays] 100% it came in working left broken.

If that was the rule – if the customer says there was no problem before but there is afterward, then the shop is required fix the problem at their expense – I think shops would be doing a lot of free servicing.

I will have to side with Steve on this one… If I break anything, i point it out, apologize and make it right again. This is the responsible approach…and dare I say the most logical. There is a very good reason all of my customers are return customers.


Why would a shop need to do a job correctly when it would be more profitable to screw it up and then bill for correcting the damage they caused?

But as I often do I would strongly recommend that the car be taken to another shop, one that is highly regarded for electrical work, to have the situation looked into and corrected. If a shop is too sloppy and unprofessional to disconnect and move a component to gain access for a repair can that shop be capable of repairing what they damaged?

I would want to know exactly what was damaged and how it happened before weighing in and blaming the shop.

GeorgeinSanJose has a very good point about customers claiming a problem after the shop touched the car. I’m not saying that is the case here; only that it’s quite common.

I’ve seen people have their cars towed in and left after hours and then claim the next day that the shop is responsible for X, Y, and Z even if the shop has never even touched the car.

Because of this - “The shop eventually admitted that they could have broken the clockspring during the repair,” I believe the shop should take responsibility and the customer should not have to pay anything for fixing it.

If they admit they ‘could have’, how could they expect a customer to think they aren’t responsible?

Either way, their reluctance to take full responsibility would be enough to keep me from ever taking my car there again.

There is a very good reason all of my customers are return customers.

I hope at least a few of them are new customers.

I think everyone agrees that a good shop would investigate the situation, and if they determined the “could have” or “might have”, turned out to be “yes, we did it”, then they’d fix the clock spring at their expense.

The more interesting question occurs when the shop is not able to determine for sure whether the work they did contributed to the other problem or not. As Honda says above, better shops probably yield when this happens and give ties to the customer, in the interest of getting repeat business and referrals.

In my experience, clock springs usually break . . . snap, tear, etc. . . . when a mechanic isn’t being careful

You don’t really hear about tons of clock springs physically breaking, because they are old

The shop even says they had to separate the steering. They probably separated the steering shaft from the steering rack. And if they didn’t properly secure the steering wheel, and it got turned, that first full left or right turn you make will cut the ribbon, so to speak

Realistically, we “know” the shop broke the ribbon

Realistically, the shop also knows they buggered it up

This is a test . . .

If the shop eats the cost, they are honest, in my opinion

If the shop makes OP pay the cost, and says they don’t know how it happened, or blames it on the age of the car, they are playing the role of the cheapskate. And they will probably lose OP as a customer. Sometimes being a cheapskate does not pay off, in the long run

What I don’t understand is this . . . why did the shop apparently give OP the car back, without mentioning the problems?

Your scenario is very possibly the situation which caused the damage @db4690, but I just can’t fathom why anyone would remove the steering column from the car with the key in the ignition and turned to the ON position to release the steering wheel. I would like to know what did happen. And I hope the OP gets his car repaired at the shops expense.